I’ve always wanted to visit Aix-en-Provence, the quintessential Provençal town known for its sun-dappled streets, vibrant café life, old fountains, Roman architecture, and not least of all, being home to Cézanne. Because there wasn’t a direct train to the town from Montpellier, where I was studying back in the day, it always seemed more difficult than necessary to get to Aix, and so I never actually made it there. (There is now a direct TGV train from Paris.)
On our most recent trip, we wanted to spend our second week in France driving around Provence, and so we decided to base ourselves right in Aix…
We were in an apartment just off the Place des Prêcheurs, which is where the town’s main market sets up several times a week, so this made it perfect for getting to the market bright and early. (See more on the market here.)
In retrospect, I think it would’ve been more quiet and calming to situate ourselves deeper into the center of town — that is to say, farther from the Cours Mirabeau, the main thoroughfare downtown where many of the cafés are and which turned out to be a little more bustling than I expected. The town is small enough that it’s not that far of a walk to get to any of the sights, and really, everything is pretty quaint and beautiful in Aix’s centreville.
After a week of squeezing in many of our must-see, must-do, must-eat stops in Paris, we were really ready to slow down in Provence. We didn’t even go to many of the sights in town. Instead, we blended in by enjoying lazy mornings and afternoons reading, sipping coffee, and generally lounging around at cafés. I love all the little squares around town that make for such scenic coffee sipping and people watching. I kept joking that I wanted to spend a whole day taking leisurely, hours-long meals, from morning to night. That didn’t really happen, but wouldn’t it be great? :)
We took some long, ambling walks about town. Aix reminded me a lot of Montpellier. It’s got a sizable student population, but at the same time, is fairly small, very walkable, and full of quaint lanes and beautiful old buildings. It’s the perfect place to get lost in.
On one of my walks, I came upon this little macaron shop called Meresse and was very intrigued by some of the flavors displayed in the window (they had savory macarons involving things like smoked salmon, foie gras, truffle, trout roe, and onion confit). Unfortunately, it being Sunday, the shop was closed. :(
We also paid a visit to La Cure Gourmande, the kind of candy shop of every kid’s dream.
We mostly got foods from the markets and ate at home in Aix. We were eager to try some local Provençal dishes, but we had a little trouble finding them, or at least memorable versions of them. For those, we’d have to wait for Marseille and Nice…